JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Given the number of businesses owners who have been forced to close this year because of the pandemic, there’s a big push to shop locally this year to support the small businesses that have been able to stay open.
But those mom-and-pop retailers have their work cut out for them this holiday shopping season. Without a doubt, this has been a bad year for businesses that have had to close down, lay off employees and limit the number of customers who come walking through their doors.
And now that the country is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, small retailers have no idea what to expect this holiday shopping season.
Christine Khanna, who owns a small boutique called Insight on Jacksonville’s Northside, has been in business for the past 15 years. But Khanna says challenges resulting from the pandemic are hurting her bottom line.
“Foot traffic has been a bit of a challenge, so we try to increase our social media presence,” Khanna said.
Twenty-three miles away in the Baymeadows neighborhood, Samantha Dames owns a small upscale beauty supply store called Make Beauty, with a small neighboring salon. Dames too has felt the pandemic’s sting.
“I was supposed to open back in March, but the pandemic happened,” she said. “It slowed my orders and stopped my grand opening.”
Dames was not able to open her store until last month. And now she and so many other small retailers are hoping more shoppers will walk through their doors during this holiday shopping season, especially shoppers who are trying to avoid a COVID-19 infection in crowded malls.
“We do have Covid restrictions in place,” Dames said. “We keep everything clean.”
But supporting small business is about more than just minimizing the spread of COVID-19. News4Jax spoke with shopper Kellie Hawkins as she purchased items with her daughter inside Khanna’s boutique.
“It’s giving back to your community,” she said. “It’s giving back to local children and it’s definitely full circle.”
Khanna told News4Jax that supporting small businesses this holiday season greatly impacts the local economy.
“Small business accounts for 70-plus percent of the country’s economy,” Khanna told News4Jax. “We employ local, we serve the local, we try to cater to the needs of the local.”
Added Dames: “We’re local. We’re right here with you. That’s how I see it. So to me, shopping small business is everything. I love the local stores and local grocers. The farmer’s market is where I frequently go. Like, anything local. Just support your own people.”
Dames and Khanna also said supporting small business is also good for a sense of community during a time when our society is so divided over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both store owners realize they are also competing with online retailers this shopping season, but said the one thing online retailers can’t provide is that personal customer service shoppers receive at small businesses.